Sunday, May 21, 2006

"New Media" - the next development wave

The fact that you are reading this post says a lot about you. It shows that you are tech saavy enough to find (or at least stumble across) a blog and that you are actually concerned enough about your own development to actually read this. You are already taking part in the next big thing in personal / professional development - New Media. The laymans terms version of new media is this whole mess of blogs, wickis, portals, podcasts, etc. - all new and exciting avenues to get our message out into the public domain and strike up a conversation.

If you scan over to the right border of this page, you can see a short list of some of my favorite blogs, pages and podacasts. Some I listen to for fun, but many are helping me take charge of my personal and professional development. I do this because the realities of time, work and a long commute make it difficult for me to engage in some of the more traditional development activities like reading, taking courses to pursue my next degree or engaging in certification courses. Just because I lack the time or resources to pursue my development the old fashioned way does not mean I cannot continue to learn and grow every day.

All it takes to successfully take advantage of all the education out there is a computer, an mp3 player (note that I didnt cop-out to apple and say I-pod) and a little investigation to find podcasts that cover the topics you want to develop your skills on. You can download and listen to podcasts almost anywhere and there are thousands of them on almost any topic you can imagine. Beyond the podcasts, you can get short snippets of information from any blog, wiki or portal that has an RSS feed and have those "headlines" show up in your email or even as a little pop-up window on your PC.

A simple HR-weasle like me cannot hope to understand it all, let alone explain it very well, but I can tell you that I get a lot smarter every day because of all of this voodoo.

Stop by any one of the links to the right of this post (in the upper right hand part). Just use them as an example and lauchning pad for your own trip into the world of new media and self-directed development. Once you get comfortable in this new world, share the wealth and give your direct reports an assignment to do the same thing for their own development!

Bon chance, mon ami!

Monday, May 15, 2006

And you thought all the managment stuff was just for "business"

You have to admit it. You thought that all my rantings were focused on business only. It probably never entered your mind that the stuff we discuss here can have equal play in almost any walk of life.

Beyond my "day job" as a Human Resources weasle, I have a part-time volunteer gig as a Firefighter - that's right.... one of those nuts who drives the big red truck and runs into burning buildings against the tide of smarter people running out of them. I raise this not to introduce you to my odd vocation, but to bring to light how even the Fire Service adopts the concepts we cover here to improve how they work. Let's face it - if you think managing a bunch of customer service reps at "Widgets-R-Us" is tough, imagine leading a bunch of rough-edged Firefighters in a real fire!

Chief Alan Brunacini of the Phoenix, Arizona Fire Department is one of the most down-to-earth leaders I have ever encountered - this guy "gets it" and has dedicated a lot of his career to helping grow better leaders for his organization. Probably the most impactful thing I've read from the Chief is his Boss Power Process . This simple little document explains loads about how management concepts transcend industry, region and language - great leaders all follow the same path.

Look for new and inspiring examples of leadership and leaders / teams who live the values you aspire to, then copy what they do! Immitation is indeed a great form of flattery.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Feedback - the breakfast of champions

Feedback - the very word can strike fear into the hearts of most of us. I'm willing to bet it brings you to a cold-sweat just the way it does for me. It's an unfortunate thing because correctly timed and delivered feedback is one of the best performance enhancers around (Sorry Barry Bonds, you should have tried this before experimenting!)

The reason so many of us dread feedback is that it is too often done wrong and almost always focused on something we didn't do well. There is another side to feedback - positive - though many managers seen to have forgetten that it exists. Positive feedback should be seen as part of the reward for doing something right. I don't want to oversimplify and bring in the Pavlov's dogs example, but when we get rewarded for behaviors, we are much more likely to repeat those successful behaviors.... seems like such a simple concept - too bad we seem to ignore it.

Even the downside of feedback is good stuff for us if timed and delivered properly. One of the best examples of how to deliver feedback comes from one of my favorite podcasts; Manager Tools. The guys who run this podcast really "get it". They have a simple and very effective approach to giving feedback that works for positive as well as negative feedback. The real beauty of this model is that if you follow it with your team as part of the normal course of business, you will find that they accept, and even seek feedback to ensure they are on track and delivering great results.


Go check out "Mananger Tools" and listen to their podcasts on feedback then start using their techniques today. It may not be comfortable at first, but neither climbing a mountain - it's tough work and it's often not pretty, but the benefits you'll reap will make it all worthwhile. Carry on!